Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Hey, #MLB: What’s With the Terrible Umps?

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This year in baseball, I’ve seen more awful calls by umpires than ever before.

I know this seems hyperbolic, but it’s true. The umps have made bad call after bad call after bad call. I don’t know who’s supervising them, but something has to be done.

Why am I saying this, other than the fact that I’m annoyed with the umps? Because over the weekend, my Milwaukee Brewers had a series with the Minnesota Twins in Minnesota. The umpires, led by crew chief Brian Gorman, made plenty of bad calls, most having to do with the strike zone. (For non-baseball fans, the strike zone is generally from the batter’s knees to the top of the letters on his jersey. The pitch also has to be reasonably close to the batter. Pitches that hit the zone but are in the opposite side’s batter’s box are balls, not strikes, because they’re too far away.)

But the most egregious thing was this: Bench coach Pat Murphy brought a lineup card out on Saturday night, and somehow managed to get ejected before the game even started. As Murphy is not known to be a hothead, and seems for the most part to be a rather calm and collected person, this made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Now, you may be asking, “So, Barb, they have instant replay now. Why aren’t these calls being fixed by the instant replay folks?”

First, there is no such thing as an instant replay of a ball or strike count. No matter how bad it is, it can’t be challenged by instant replay.

Second, on the plays that can be challenged (such as a close play at first base, say), the instant replay people seem to get it wrong at least 40% of the time.

Third, sometimes it seems like all of the umpires have no idea what they’re doing in a major league baseball stadium. (And I say this being a fan of former umpire Ron Luciano, who was one of the most ebullient and charismatic umps to ever work a major league game.)

I know that major league baseball (MLB) has procedures to grade umpires on what they’re doing and what they’re not doing. But I have no idea if MLB realizes just how bad some of these umps are, as they don’t tell us anything about these evaluations.

Now, I will admit that I am especially frustrated because there have been not one, not two, but three umpires — female umps — in triple-A baseball in the past thirty to forty years that were every bit as good as the male umps, but never got a chance to umpire in a major league, regular season game.

Yet we have these yahoos out there, who are willing to throw out a bench coach before a pitch is ever thrown, and before a game has even started.

My solution would be to make the umpire evaluations public. (At least that they’re doing them. Please!) And take another look at the current female umps in the minor league system, if you would, ’cause I can’t believe they’d be any worse than some of the idiots we have up here now. (All apologies to the good umps, as I know there are still some in MLB. But really, this is just wrong.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2021 at 8:23 pm

What Makes a Good Story?

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Recently, I wrote about Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher John Axford, and I said that the way his story ended was not the way his story was supposed to go.

This begs the question: What makes for a good story, anyway?

By contemporary standards, what would’ve made Axford’s story much better would’ve been him coming into the game, striking out the side (or at least getting three outs), getting the save, and having the stadium rain cheers upon his head. (The crowd did cheer him when he came in — I think he may have even received a standing ovation — and cheered him on the way out, too, which is not usual when a pitcher is unable to get out of the inning. This last happened because we Brewers fans knew Axford well from his previous service with us, and knew he was deserving of such approbation due to how well he’d done before.)

In previous eras, though, they had stories such as MADAME BOVARY that sold a ton. Those stories would have characters put through the wringer and they’d never be able to come up for air; instead, even their children would be put through the wringer for no purpose, and would never be able to get ahead.

Why audiences appreciated such stories is beyond me, but that was the fashion at that time. The would-be heroine (or hero) had a tragic flaw (or two, or five), and because of that flaw would taint herself and everyone around her beyond any hope of redemption.

The fashion now tends more to happy endings, but well-deserved happy endings. Characters still get put through the wringer (see Lois McMaster Bujold’s MIRROR DANCE, or Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS, or any of Robert Jordan’s novels in the Wheel of Time series, among others), but they live to fight another day. They learn from their mistakes, too. And they continue on, having learned much more about themselves in the process.

Of course, the Harry Potter novels also exemplify this sort of story. Harry grows up to be a powerful magician, but he’s put through the wringer and must fight the big, bad, nasty, evil, and disgusting Lord Voldemort (and yes, I meant all those descriptions, as Voldemort is just that bad) in order to become the magician he needs to be. He and his friends Hermione and Ron are put through all sorts of awful things, but they eventually prevail.

My friend Chris Nuttall’s novels about Emily, starting with SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and continuing through to FACE OF THE ENEMY (with CHILD OF DESTINY coming soon), also have a plot that shows Emily being thrown into awful situation after awful situation, but she finds a way to prevail every time through hard work, effort, and a talent to get along with people even if they’ve crossed her (or she’s crossed them). Emily scans as a real person, and we care about her because she faces things most of us face even though we’re not magicians.

What are those things, you ask? Well, she has to learn from her own mistakes. She has to realize that she can’t fix everything and everyone. She has to find out that her snap judgments are not always correct. And she has to reevaluate people and situations, even when she doesn’t want to.

Of course, my own stories about Bruno and Sarah (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) have many of the same lessons. There are things Bruno can do, and does, once he realizes he’s been lied to about nearly everything. Sarah is in much the same boat, except she has different talents — complementary ones, in most cases — and the two of them have to find that they’re stronger together than they could ever be alone. But there are still things they can’t do, and they must make their peace with that (as every adult does), while continuing to work on the things they can.

In other words, they can control what is in their power to control. But they can’t control other people. (It would be wrong to do so, anyway. They have to make their own lives meaningful in whatever way they can, too. And make their own mistakes, as we all do…but I digress.)

Anyway, the stories I love best are those with happy endings. People sometimes start out with situations they don’t deserve (such as my friend Kayelle Allen’s character Izzorah, who went through a childhood illness that damaged his heart and nearly blinded him), but they get into better positions and find the people who can help them — maybe even love them the way they deserve. (Izzorah, for example, finds a treatment for his heart — it’s not a standard one, by any means, but it works in the context of the story — and finds love along the way in SURRENDER LOVE.)

So, to go back to the beginning of this blog, as we love happy endings and we want to see deserving people find good luck and happiness, the true ending we wanted for John Axford was to get the outs, get the cheers, bask in the glow of achieving his dreams once again at the baseball-advanced age of thirty-eight, and stay with the Brewers the rest of the season as they continue to make their run at postseason play.

That Axford was unable to achieve this happy ending was distressing. But all the hard work and effort he put into his return to the big leagues should still be celebrated. And my hope, overall, is that he will still be with the Brewers in one way or another after this season ends.

What makes for a good story? Do you agree or disagree with me, and if so, why? Tell me about it in the comments!

John Axford Rejoins Brewers, Gets Injured…Not the Way the Story Was Supposed to Go

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A few days ago, pitcher John Axford rejoined the Brewers, came out to pitch in the 9th inning to wild applause…then injured his elbow after first hitting a batter, then walking two (getting one out in the process). I could see the injury when he threw to the last batter (the second walk), as the elbow looked wrong in a way I can’t quite explain.

This was not the way the story was supposed to go.

Axford is now thirty-eight. He is the Brewers single-season saves leader with 46. And he’d recently pitched for Team Canada during Olympic qualifications, then was sent by the Toronto Blue Jays to their Triple-A ballclub as Axford had looked impressive and his velocity (upper nineties on the radar gun) was back. Then Toronto traded Axford, a then-minor league player, to the Brewers for cash considerations. This was a classy move by a classy organization.

To make matters even more interesting, Axford had worked for the Blue Jays as a TV analyst at the start of this season before making his comeback effort. (To say that all of this is quite uncommon, almost of a storybook quality, is understating Axford’s story.)

So, we return to Milwaukee and Axford’s appearance a few days ago. As I said, he came out to wild applause; there may have even been a standing ovation. (We Brewers fans do not forget our players.) Axford, who’d not pitched for the Brewers since 2013, seemed touched by this (I was watching TV, and saw his expressions). He warmed up on the mound, as every pitcher does, and he looked quite good.

I was happy to see Axford. I wrote about him years ago (that’s why I have a “John Axford” category here at my blog), and I know he’s a quality human being and a class act. I also knew that he’s not the type of guy to accept a challenge unless he believes he can beat that challenge.

Anyway, during the first at-bat by the opposing team (Pittsburgh), he looked impressive. His fastball was hitting 94 or 95 mph consistently and hit 96 at least once. (Fastball velocity matters because major league hitters can tee off on pitches that are slower than that, in general. There are exceptions to this, pitchers who can make change-ups work for them, such as Brewers pitcher Devin Williams. But Axford is not one of those exceptions.) And he’d gotten a couple of strikes on the batter — I forget the guy’s name now, but he always stands right on top of the plate — before hitting him.

So, that guy goes to first base.

Axford still looked OK. He wasn’t rattled. (As an experienced closing pitcher, he’s certainly done things like that before. Not often, but often enough that it wouldn’t throw him.) He kept going.

But something happened to his elbow during the next few at-bats. While he did get one guy out (soft outfield fly, if I remember right), he was not able to get any more outs. And with the last few pitches he threw, the ball came nowhere close to the plate. In fact, they didn’t even come close to the batter’s box, that’s just how far outside they were.

That’s not like Axford, or any experienced player. I knew this. And I also knew that if you ever see something like that in a professional ballgame, the pitcher’s hurt.

Axford was taken out of the game. An MRI was done the next morning, and all Brewers fans know to this point is that Axford is out for the rest of the season as he has unspecified elbow damage.

I feel for Axford. I truly do.

I am not a professional pitcher — not hardly! — but when I was in my teens I had a good fastball for a fourteen-year-old and tried out for the local team. (Unofficially, mind.) Another of the girls I knew, who ran cross-country, also tried out. And we showed enough that it’s possible both of us would’ve gotten an official tryout, even during a time where young women weren’t exactly encouraged to be athletes — and definitely not encouraged to be pitchers. (My friend was a first baseman, mind, and hit a ton. But I digress.)

Anyway, sometime over the next year, I messed up my right arm. I went in to see the orthopedist, and he said as I was not ever going to be pitching again, I didn’t need to have my arm fixed. But that I’d apparently torn something — a ligament, a rotator cuff, he wasn’t sure (and no, he didn’t do an X-ray, either; MRIs were quite expensive, then). Because I was a musician, not an athlete, he did not recommend getting my arm fixed.

Ever since, instead of throwing in the high 70s/low 80s (which was quite good for a fourteen-year-old, I point out again), I can maybe throw a fastball in the mid 30s. My right arm hurts when the weather changes, too.

I know that professional pitchers do get their arms fixed, and they should. But I’m here to tell you that I know these injuries are extremely frustrating. Even to someone like me, who wasn’t really an athlete (though I wanted to be, desperately), an arm injury of the type Axford apparently suffered is difficult to deal with. (I had pain while playing my instruments for at least six months, too. But I digress, again.)

Everyone among the Brewers faithful, and probably most others as well, wanted Axford’s appearance to go differently. They wanted Axford to get the save. They wanted Axford to remain uninjured. And they wanted Axford to enjoy a night that he’d worked hard to get back to: a night in the big leagues, again.

That did not happen.

The story did not go where it should’ve. And that just goes to show you that stories, even when they don’t go the way you want, are important.

I wish Axford well, hope he fully recovers, and pitches again in the big leagues before he retires. But if he isn’t able to make it back to “the Show” again, I hope he’ll remember that the journey to get there was important. All the work he’d done to stay in shape, to try out for Team Canada, to go to the minors and work hard, was important as well.

Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and care are all important. Axford has all of that in droves. And now, he — along with the rest of the Brewers faithful — needs to remember that he’s done everything he can.

The rest, unfortunately, is out of his hands.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 6, 2021 at 4:30 pm

2021 Baseball Oddities, or, The Baseball Curmudgeon’s Rant

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Folks, it’s no secret that I am a huge baseball fan.

I have followed the Brewers almost since their inception in 1970. (I was quite young, but I remember Hank Aaron’s final games as a Brewer in 1976.) They have never won the World Series, but they have played in one (in 1982); they have come close, since switching to the National League, to getting to the World Series again, but have not actually gotten there. I say all this to explain why I am so irritated with 2021’s version of Major League Baseball (MLB).

First, there are the rules changes that happened last year during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. These are meant to shorten games, which made sense then — but doesn’t, now, considering there is a vaccine — and they are profoundly vexing.

What are they, and why do they frustrate me so much? Simple.

It used to be, in extra innings, that no one started on base to start the inning. This made sense. An extra inning was just like every other inning, and of course no one should be on base when they haven’t gotten a hit or taken a walk or gotten hit by a pitch, or any number of other legal baseball plays that would put them on base in a normal fashion.

But now, there’s a rule that starting in the tenth inning in normal games that the last person who made an out in the ninth inning gets to stand on second base. If that person scores. it’s an unearned run against the pitcher.

That rule reminds me of Little League.

Remember, these are MLB players. They are used to the grind of a 162-game season. They do not need to start on second base to shave off time from a game now that there is a vaccine.

But that’s not the worst rule.

The worst rule is that if a doubleheader is now played, the game will only be seven innings long.

Yep. You saw that right. Only seven innings.

That means that the eighth inning is when that stupid rule about putting someone on second base who doesn’t belong there and shouldn’t be there happens in a doubleheader. It also means that someone can pitch a complete game (which up until now was defined as a full, nine-inning game unless shortened by weather or other problems) and only go seven innings.

This reminds me of preschool ball, before the kids even get to Little League.

Again, these are pro players we’re talking about, used to the grind of a full season of baseball. They don’t need games to be shortened to only seven innings, and they definitely don’t need to start putting people on second base if they’re going to insist on that stupid rule until the tenth inning.

As a fan, these things irritate me quite a bit, as I’m sure you’ve figured out. But I have one, final piece of news to impart that’s even more infuriating than that.

I walk with a cane. I say this because I am considered to be a disabled person.

How does this relate, you ask? Well, in 2020, major league baseball decided to change the name of the list of players who can’t play from the disabled list (DL) to the injured list (IL).

Did they really think I can’t tell the difference between me, a truly disabled person, and someone who went on the DL?

To my mind, changing it was the height of political correctness. And it did not need to be done, at all.

So, to reiterate: we now have three different changes in MLB since last year. None of them make any sense in 2021. I definitely do not like any of them. And I wish they’d change them back.

P.S. The other night, I was frustrated when the Brewers lost, 6-1, in 11 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals. My mother and I had watched the game in its entirety together. The announcers, who were fill-ins from the usual pair of Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, didn’t seem to understand that we and other fans had actually watched the whole game, and reiterated that the Cards had scored five runs in the top of the 11th several times before we even got to the bottom of the 11th.

I actually wrote in to the Brewers Facebook page to say how upsetting this was to both me and my mother.

I mean, I can count to five. Can’t everyone?

Remembering Henry Aaron

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Last Friday morning, baseball Hall of Fame great Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away in his sleep. Aaron was many things in his lifetime: a phenomenal player, a good husband, a wonderful father, a great friend, and possibly most of all a humanitarian.

I never met Aaron, personally, but I remember going to one of his last games when I was quite young. This was in 1976. Aaron was 42 years old and a designated hitter for my hometown Milwaukee Brewers team, and it was cold, a bit rainy, and windy…when Aaron hit the ball over the fence, no one was sure if he had hit it fair or foul. To me, where I was, it looked fair. (No instant replay in the stadiums, back then.) But the umpire called it foul (no way to challenge that, back then, either), and that was that.

Aaron already had 755 home runs at that point, making him at that time the greatest home-run hitter in Major League Baseball history. But that near-miss home run is what sticks with me, mostly because Aaron didn’t complain. He didn’t yell at the umpire. He may have shaken his head a little, but he went back into the batter’s box and finished up his at-bat. (I think he struck out.)

Put simply, Henry Aaron was a class act.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote an article today about a service held in Atlanta earlier today, where many different people spoke. (Some spoke by Zoom, some by recorded messages, and a few in person, as is proper during a pandemic.) Here’s one of the salient quotes from that article from Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk:

“He will always be known as our home run king,” McGuirk said. “For our organization, Hank was much more than those stats, much more than the greatest ballplayer of all time. He helped guide our organization ever since his playing days ended.

“Doing things the right way was one of his mantras. The saying on the front of today’s program, which is also on one of the pillars here, reads, ‘What you do with your life and how you do it, is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped make you who you are.’”

I think that quote sums up what most of us are trying to understand in this lifetime. Think about it a little bit: “What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped make you who you are.” This, in one pithy saying, gets to the heart of the matter: we are who we are because of what we’ve learned, because of the people we’ve come into contact with, and because of our own efforts (the phrase “have helped make you who you are” is key in that).

Henry Aaron was 86, and lived a good, long, honorable life. He was a tremendous player — even in 1976, his final year as a player, it was obvious that everyone on the field had great respect for him. The stats can’t possibly show his value and worth as a human being, though…only those who knew him, and of his philanthropic nature, and of his wish to lift others up as he, himself, had been lifted along the way, can fully know that.

But what I know is this: We lost a wonderful person when Henry Aaron passed away.

We truly did.

Now, all we can do is remember his mantra (as stated, above, by McGuirk) and live every day the best way we can. (Or, to go back to my blog about the John Wesley saying, “Do all the good you can, for as long as you can, for as many you can.” That’s my paraphrase, but I hope it works.)

And if you’re able, do one small thing every day to better someone else’s life…just ’cause it’s the right thing to do. I think Henry Aaron would approve of that — and I, myself, definitely do.

When Life Is Like Baseball

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Folks, if you’ve read my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I am a baseball fan. (My Milwaukee Brewers jersey, worn in the picture I put in the “About” section, kind of gives it away.) And while I haven’t written much about baseball in recent years, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped watching it.

Or learning from it, either.

Yesterday evening, the Brewers played the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild-Card play-in game. This is a one-game playoff, and whichever team wins the game advances.

My Brewers did not advance.

Now, they were ahead until the bottom of the 8th inning. (One inning away from winning the game, if you’re not a baseball fan.) But at that time, three pivotal events happened:

  1. Home plate ump called a hit-by-pitch instead of a batted ball when the ball clearly hit the knob of the bat of the hitter rather than any part of the hitter’s hand. And when the Brewers complained, and asked for a replay, the umps doing replay didn’t fix the call.

    Had that call been a batted ball (inadvertent, but still), that runner would’ve been out. Instead, the runner was awarded first base, and that ultimately mattered because…

    2. Josh Hader, the Brewers bullpen ace (and “closer,” meaning he finishes games and usually shuts down opposing hitters cold), did not have his best stuff. He was missing the locations catcher Yasmani Grandal was asking for that Hader normally would’ve hit…and Hader was clearly rattled by the ump’s bad call, too. And that led to the bases being loaded, which led to…

    3. Hader gives up a single to Juan Soto of the Nationals. Soto’s ball went to right field, where Brewers OF Trent Grisham waited. However, the ball got past Grisham (somehow), meaning three runs scored rather than one, or two. (Probably two runs would’ve scored there no matter what, but for the sake of argument, you could say it was possible that had Grisham fielded the ball properly, he could’ve thrown out the second runner at home.)

    This error was costly.

    Check that. Beyond costly.

And after all that happened, instead of the Brewers leading, 3-1, as they had at the beginning of the inning, they now trailed, 4-3. And they weren’t able to muster a rally in the ninth and climactic inning, though OF Lorenzo Cain singled with one out. (This meant the tying run was aboard, but was unable to score.)

Game over.

But that doesn’t mean the season was a waste. Far, far from it.

The Brewers season was good this year. They had ups and downs. They could be streaky. They lost their best player, NL MVP Christian Yelich, at the beginning of September. Several of their other best players, such as former NL MVP Ryan Braun, Lo Cain, Keston Hiura, and Mike Moustakas, were battling through injuries. And they still kept going, and made an improbable run in September (going 20-7) to get to the Wild-Card Game at all.

Persistence, grit, and heart in action. It was fun to watch them overcome so much adversity in September.

That said, this was a disappointing loss. It hurt, as a fan, to watch it. And I’m sure the players didn’t enjoy it either, most especially not Grisham and Hader.

Now, the title of this blog is, “When Life Is Like Baseball.” So you might be wondering, “Barb, what on Earth are you going on about, nattering about the Brewers game? They lost. So what?”

Well, life is like this, too. You try, and try, and try again, and sometimes you make errors. Sometimes you get bad calls, where you did everything right, but the person in charge feels you still did it wrong…and sometimes, your best play (or player) is going to let you down, because that’s what the law of averages is all about.

No one wants to make a critical error in a one-and-done situation like Grisham did, mind. And no one wants to blow a save at the worst possible time, as Hader did.

Sometimes, you are going to make your best effort, and still lose. This doesn’t mean that you should stop trying, but it does mean you have to learn from your mistakes.

You have to keep going, though. Despite disappointment. Despite adversity. Despite setbacks.

You have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and sometimes you have to wait a long time to “get a bit of your own back.” (Or better yet, just live well and let that be the best revenge. Or in the Brewers case, play well.)

But you can do it. No matter what the adversity, setback, or disappointment, you can do it if you learn from your mistakes, you keep on trying, and you make your best effort every day.

I firmly believe that. And I hope you do, too.

A Teensy Little Baseball Bloglet…

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Folks, as I continue to heal from the respiratory nastiness, I wanted to give you a brief update about how my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are doing in the playoffs.

Last night, the Brewers had to win or they’d have been out of the playoffs. And they did win, forcing a climactic game seven tonight in Milwaukee against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s rainy, windy, and cold, but the Brewers’ stadium, Miller Park, has a roof so the game will be played.

If the Brewers can win tonight, they will go to the World Series for the first time since 1982. I was young then, and yes, I did go to both a playoff game and a World Series game. (I was a huge fan then, too.) Old Milwaukee County Stadium was electric with energy; though we didn’t have a roof, we had tons of fans who knew and loved baseball, and it was a wonderful experience even though the Brewers, then in the American League, did not win the World Series.

The players back then were so much fun. My all-time favorite, catcher and right fielder Charlie Moore (he who threw out Reggie Jackson from right field in game 5 of the ALCS). Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. First baseman Cecil Cooper, a great hitter and one of the all-around good guys of the team. Starters Pete Vuckovich and Mike Caldwell and Moose Haas. Reliever extraordinaire Rollie Fingers, also a Hall of Famer. Homegrown second baseman Jim Gantner, a guy who could and did anything required of him. And swingman Jerry Augustine…who now works for Fox Sports Wisconsin as an analyst.

My hope is that the 2018 Brewers will someday be as well-regarded as my 1982 team, and that the kids coming up today will know all the names: Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Orlando Arcia, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Lorenzo Cain, Keon Broxton (who I hope, if the Brewers do make it to the World Series, is activated for the WS as he’s such a dynamic force in the outfield and on the basepaths), and MVP candidate Christian Yelich. If they do, and can remember back to this wonderful year, and think of it with fondness, that’s all any baseball fan can ever ask.

Now back to healing, already in progress…

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

Why I Don’t Care About Josh Hader’s Teenage Tweets

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As most of you know, I am a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. I love baseball, enjoy the Brewers, watch their games, sometimes write blogs about them, and have been happy to keep the faith over many years of mostly non-winning, non-viable teams.

This year, the Brewers have a better team than they’ve had in years. After last year’s shockingly good season (where they missed the playoffs by only one game), they remain in the playoff hunt. And they placed five players, a team record, in the All-Star Game: Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Two of them, Hader and Jeffress, are relief pitchers; two, Cain and Yelich, are outfielders; the last one, Aguilar, is a first baseman.

But rather than being happy the Brewers placed five players on the All-Star team (a nice accolade to have), Brewers fans woke up yesterday to a very sour story, that of Josh Hader’s teenage Tweets. Hader’s Twitter account (now locked down to “private” mode) was public, and went all the way back to 2010 or 2011…and some of the Tweets from that time period were pretty raw. Hader bragged about the size of his, er, male anatomy; he quoted raunchy song lyrics without attribution; he said he couldn’t stand gay people; he even made an odd KKK Tweet. (This latter made no sense, but Hader has been an elite-level pitcher since high school. I want to believe he maybe meant this as a reference to three strikeouts in a game he’d pitched, though who knows?) Worst of all, to my mind, was the disregard he showed, whether it was to women, LGBT people, minorities, or anyone else nonwhite and not an elite athlete like himself.

(Note that I am not linking to the screen-capped Tweets, mostly because this is a family blog. (I also believe you can find them elsewhere without too much difficulty.) They aren’t pleasant reading. I felt like washing my mind out with soap after reading them. But back to the blog.)

The thing is, Hader was seventeen at the time of these Tweets. I do not condone what he said; I, myself, would not have said anything remotely like that at seventeen, and I was considered an elite-level musician at the time, with multiple scholarship offers. (Not exactly the same thing as Hader, and certainly without the earning potential. But close enough.)

Still. He was seventeen. And one would hope he’s learned better by now, as he’s now twenty-four.

His teammates have said what’s expected. (Jesus Aguilar in particular came out and said Hader’s not racist, and that everyone should know it.) They know Hader better than anyone else. They do not believe he’s a bigot. Nor do they believe he’s misogynistic.

Look. We all have said something we shouldn’t, that hurts us. (I know I have.) It may not be as bad as this, no. But it is something we do because we haven’t fully matured yet, or maybe we just don’t realize the impact our words have on others yet.

Or, perhaps, we all make mistakes, so we can learn from them? Or try to learn from them?

In this day and age, when mistakes can linger for years and years–as Hader’s did, waiting to bite him on the butt in 2018–shouldn’t we learn how to forgive and forget? Or at least forgive?

Also, keep this in mind: Hader is not making public policy. He is not in charge of the federal government, or the state government, or even the local government…he is a baseball player. A pitcher.

In other words, Hader’s words have only as much effect on us as we allow. And if his teammates are all right with him, and providing he continues to work on himself and mature and become a better person (as we all must, if we want to get something good out of this life at all), why should we care about his teenage Tweets?

So, that’s my position. I do not care about Hader’s Tweets from 2011. But I do care about how he acts right now. And my hope is that he will be able to become a force for good, and use his celebrity and money to good effect.

In that way, he can transform this obnoxious episode from his past into something better. And then, maybe, his old Tweets can become a blessing…that is the best-case scenario.

Why I Love Baseball

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Ever since I was a child, I have loved baseball. There’s something about how the game is played, including the managerial moves (pitching substitutions in particular), that has captivated me, and made me want to learn more and more about it.

Early on, I read the biographies of Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and several other ballplayers. Most of the players I read about had struggled to get the big leagues; Jackie Robinson, in particular, had a very rough go of it as he was the first black player to break the “color line” (that is, the lily white major leagues). And whether it was race, poverty, or race and poverty, most of the players I read about found a way out of their bad situations, and made decent livings for themselves as ballplayers.

Because back then, ballplayers — even huge stars like Robinson and Aaron — were not paid extravagantly, as they are now. There were no millionaires in the major leagues until after Curt Flood challenged the reserve clause (and gave the baseball world free agency, and thus shifted salaries rapidly upward), though perhaps a few people came close to making a hundred thousand dollars now and again. And except for the really big stars, most players had to work in the off-season at regular jobs. Car salesmen, say, or at the post office, or maybe at the grocery store.

So if they weren’t making big money, why did most of them play? I think they did it because they enjoyed it. It’s a fun game, baseball; there are lots of different things to watch, from the pitching, the hitting, the defense, the managerial substitutions…a good manager can take a ho-hum game and make it dramatic, if he has the right team and makes the right moves at the right time.

Of course, sometimes, you don’t need a manager for the dramatics to occur naturally.

My favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers, have had many interesting things happen over the years. The Brewers have had position players pitching in blowout losses; they’ve had inside-the-park home runs (one memorable one was Prince Fielder’s, several year back; Fielder was not exactly svelte compared to most other players, so seeing how fast he could scamper around the bases was a particular delight); they’ve had players do nearly everything, except win a World Series. (One of these years, perhaps that will happen, too.)

But around baseball, there are dozens of things that happen a night that are interesting, and usually there’s at least one truly different and unique happening every week or so. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants third baseman and all-around good, beefy guy, pitched a stellar ninth inning in a blowout loss just last week, and amidst the hysterical laughter by all the relief pitchers in the ballpark (home and away), there were some genuine compliments. Especially as Sandoval was the one “pitcher” who managed to get through an inning without giving up any runs for the Giants in the entire ballgame, these compliments seemed warranted.

And again, I turn back to my team, the Brewers, for a novelty. They were in a game earlier this year where the first two batters (from the opposing team) hit back-to-back home runs, which is not novel in and of itself…however, the fact that the Brewers, at the very end of the game, hit back-to-back home runs to end it was the first time that feat had ever occurred in the modern history of major league baseball.

Yeah. The first two guys hit solo homers. And the last two guys also hit solo homers.

Now, that’s entertainment!

Anyway, I love baseball. It can be thrilling. It can also, occasionally, be downright boring (I’m looking at my Brewers again, here, as they mounted almost no offense during last week’s series against the Cubs — must I say, again, that two runs over four games does not make an offense?). But even the boring moments usually have a silver lining, if you look hard enough…and hey, on nights like that, I can catch up on my reading.

So it’s always a win/win, as far as I’m concerned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2018 at 4:19 am